My youngest son, my baby, turned 18 on Friday. A few weeks ago, he and I began discussing plans for his birthday party. My son is a huge people person. So long story short, we ended up with 14 teenage boys here at my house for a party and 10 of them staying for overnight. It was a night of bowling, playing pool, lifting weights, video games, watching “Napoleon Dynamite”, pizza, and homemade ice cream cake. They were laughing and having a good time into the wee hours of the morning. The next morning, I did the mom thing, I cooked bacon, scrambled eggs, biscuits, and gravy. When I yelled down the stairs to the basement that there was biscuits and gravy, it didn’t take much time for them to surface. They ate to their fill and thanked me repeatedly for the “great breakfast”.
While I was cooking it hit me, I really enjoy cooking for these kids. If you knew my history with cooking, you would understand why that stuck out to me. I was not much for cooking when I was growing up. My mom would try and try to get me to join her in the kitchen, but I had absolutely NO interest. I took home ec in high school and when it came time for the cooking labs, I would try to get in a group that had good cooks, and I would offer to do the dishes so I wouldn’t have to cook, but still get the good grade. When I moved out at 18, I ended up with a job as a cook at a nursing home. I had listed my youth pastors for references on my application. So during my interview, the dietician who managed the kitchen told me, “I’m a Christian, you’re a Christian. I can teach you how to cook.” A miracle… lol. God knew I’d end up married with 4 kids and a stay-at-home mom. He also knew I would need to learn to cook. When I called my mom to let her know I got a new job as a cook at a nursing home, she jokingly told me not to lie to her. “You never cooked when you were home, how on earth will you cook for a nursing home?” I told her, “There are two reasons I will cook, Love or Money. Someday I’ll have a husband and a family and then I will cook for love. For now, it’s MONEY!” I may have been trying to crack somewhat of a joke at that moment, but I realize now there was a lot of truth to it.
My boss taught me how to cook all kinds of stuff, and not just off a recipe, sometimes just throwing what I had together to make something tasty, I did it happily for 3 years. Then my husband came along, we were married, I quit the kitchen, and my cooking for love began. I wanted to impress him with my skill, since his mom also worked in a kitchen, and was an awesome cook. So, our first year was me trying my best to bring out the best meals from my repertoire of dishes I knew. Love or money… Love had finally won out! I’ve been cooking for love for the past 29 years.
I’ve been thinking quite a bit the past few months about my relationship with God and the motives behind what I do. As one who has struggled with the shackles of performance-based religion chained to my feet more than once, an evaluation of motives is a good thing from time to time. Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” God wants me serving Him for the same reason I have cooked for my husband and kids for the past 29 years, love. There’s freedom in that. Serving for “money” or I do x, y, z and you reward me with whatever I want, or hope God will give me, is a business transaction with no heart involved. I become a slave of the need I am trying to get filled or the reward I want to receive. The more I strive, the more I receive. The hamster wheel of performance with the hope of an occasional treat drives me. When you are driven, you are a slave. When you love you willingly do things you would not naturally do, and you do it from the heart.
God is after our love. He has made it pretty clear that the things we think we can do to make Him happy with us are not enough. He compares our righteous acts to filthy rags, Menstrual cloths to be exact (gross). He’s not looking for us to come to Him with the latest and greatest of our performance tricks. He is wanting us to come to just come. He wants us to come to Him so we can know Him. I can believe that with confidence because Jesus’ life on earth is the evidence of that. Jesus said that when we see Him we have seen the Father. This means our Daddy in Heaven is the kind of God that would touch the untouchable, love the unloveable, heal the impossible, and restore the broken. It says in Acts 10: 38 “…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” Jesus and our Heavenly Father are not playing Good Cop/ Bad Cop with us. Jesus Good Cop/ God the Father Bad cop. Jesus did all the good He did because God was with Him. Our Heavenly Father loves it when we experience His goodness just as much as Jesus does. And His desire is for us to come to Him and interact with Him from a heart that Loves, not one that is just looking for a payout of some kind of “money”.
James 2 in the Bible has a lot to say about our actions and our faith. It gets as bold as saying that if we have faith but have no actions to back them up our faith is dead. This seems to be a statement of us “cooking for money” again. No one wants a dead faith, so we need to get busy. But I would like to propose that it is actually about “cooking for love”. God wants our faith in Him to be born out “PASSION” for knowing Him. “LOVE”. The kind of Love that can’t wait to get up and spend time with Him in the morning, not checking a box off our spiritual to do list. The kind of love that wants to tell others about Him, because they are just so blown away and excited by being Passionately loved by the creator of all. He wants our faith to be alive with actions that come from a heart motivated by LOVE for Him. This love is not something we just drum up within ourselves. If we lack that kind of Love, our faith could very well be dead. Thankfully our God is the God of the resurrection. He brings the dead, even our dead and cold love to life. A passionate love within us comes because HE LOVED US FIRST! and His Spirit has poured HIs love out in our hearts. It is a passion given by Him. HE DOES IT ALL! If I feel like I lack the love and desire for Him I need, I just ask, and He will give.
He wants us close to Him. That is why He came and why He still pursues us. He is just that Good!